Through a public-private partnership between the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and our nonprofit client, New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL), a new flagship tennis and education center was conceived as a year-round public amenity for Crotona Park, inside 127-acres of natural parkland in the South Bronx. The project expands the legacy of the twenty original public tennis courts and transforms the site into a state-of-the-art venue, comprised of a 12,750 SF two-story clubhouse and educational facility with two world-class stadium exhibition courts; 20 outdoor hard courts with 10 upgraded to USTA regulation and seasonal coverage under air structures; bleacher seating for 960; and a raised spectator viewing bridge in-between the courts.
As a hybrid facility, the two-story clubhouse includes a pro shop, lounge and expansive locker rooms found in a typical high-end tennis club, above classrooms, meeting spaces and garden areas associated with a community center. The building and stadium courts are partially buried as a strategy to minimize the impact of a large structure in the park, to take advantage of natural geothermal heating and cooling of below ground surfaces, and to create a special precinct for both "tennis and learning." Bleacher seats are not visible from outside the precinct, preserving the natural setting of New York City’s public Crotona Park. To address issues of durability and maintenance of standard tournament asphalt courts, the courts now sunken below-grade were constructed with post-tensioned concrete exceeding USTA construction standards. Courtside, the lower level of the clubhouse opens directly on to the exhibition courts, and parkside, the building appears as a low single-story pavilion.
Conceptually, the venue is designed as a series of platforms—both for viewing tennis, from beginner to professional level, and metaphorically a platform to encourage lifelong learning—a project to create the opportunity for underserved inner-city kids to experience success on the tennis court as well as in life.
As a design strategy, the building was conceived as a series of roofs providing cover for simple, multiple-use interior spaces—a tectonic of shifting planes defines the roof, floors, and viewing platforms, anchored by solid volumes of the “locker box” and elevator cores. Diagonal columns support an independent, triangular roof structure that hovers above the clerestory, providing shade to the interior from direct sunlight. Located at the corner of the park site, the two-story clubhouse breaks from the orthogonal grid defined by the tennis courts.
The project’s site strategy is driven by its mission as a tennis center. From the entry, all attention is directed courtside. The design of the complex facilitates multiple forms of viewing the tennis court action from all spaces: above and parallel, adjacent and afar. A raised bridge platform provides direct viewing to five conventional courts and additional viewing to the exhibition and stadium courts. This program piece makes the viewer-player relationship more intimate and more engaging than a traditional tennis center, providing a unique spectator experience in the urban park by allowing a direct relationship to the court action on both sides. An added amenity is the unobstructed elevated vantage point to see the surrounding park environment beyond.
Proving the efficacy of public/private cooperation, the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning has expanded the capability of New York City to host international competition tennis with a venue recognized by the International Tennis Federation as the first tennis facility in the USA to achieve a Two Star Outstanding Tennis Facility status. As the flagship for New York Junior Tennis & Learning, the tennis complex provides a competitive training venue for high-performance juniors as the site of the annual Mayor’s Cup, the largest scholastic tennis event in the US. Since 2017, the Cary Leeds Center has hosted USTA qualifying professional tournaments leading up to the US Open including the NYJTL Bronx Open, and has now joined Billie Jean King’s World Team Tennis franchise as the site of the New York Empire home matches.
GLUCK+ is an internationally renowned architecture and construction firm located in New York City. Over a 45-year period, the firm has generated an integrative approach to the design of award-winning buildings, recognized for inventive, conceptually unique, and comprehensive design solutions. In this Architect Led Design Build (ALDB) practice, which the firm describes as “single source responsibility for the design, construction and commissioning of buildings,” the designers are also the construction managers for nearly all of the firm’s projects. The practice is committed to pushing the boundaries of
design together with real-world expertise to deliver the highest quality-built result. Our work is diverse and recognized worldwide through national and international design awards and publications. Our range of projects–from houses, schools, community centers to mixed-use developments, university buildings, and historic restorations—are all unique because each project is specific